THE AGE OLD QUESTION
Aliens versus Predator, Marvel versus Capcom, and the age old question, Photoshop versus Lightroom. Putting the other apps aside, I guess this is also the first question people who are interested in photo editing will ask.
Which is the better app for editing, Photoshop or Lightroom? What is the difference between Photoshop and Lightroom? I know, there are already a lot of these “difference” articles out there. So I shall do something a little more than the rest.
Apart from an apple orange comparison, I shall add a bit of history and my personal experiences with Photoshop and Lightroom to help you decide. If you do not already own a copy of Photoshop or Lightroom, please do check out the link at the end of this guide.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Let us start with something very boring – the history of Photoshop and Lightroom. Yep. Boring as they may be, the history is the best place to start. The history is where you will learn why they are started, and who they are made for.
THE SHORT HISTORY OF PHOTOSHOP
Photoshop, there is a long history behind this piece of software. It all started in 1988 and as a very simple “slightly better paint application”. For nostalgia sake, I shall attach this video.
For you folks who are thinking “Photoshop is so difficult to use”, that is how far they have come. Photoshop used to be good for random stick man doodles, and the smart monkeys at Adobe have added a lot of features over the years.
Today, Photoshop is so good that it is the best image editing app in the world. So good that wherever you see a good photo, the word “Photoshopped” comes to mind.
THE SHORT HISTORY OF LIGHTROOM
Lightroom came a lot later in 2006, after digital photography became mainstream and popular. Well, Photoshop has grown so much and became more geared towards digital artists. To cater for the growing digital photography market, Adobe then created Lightroom,
For those who are curious and do not shoot film, Lightroom is named after the physical dark room. Photos were developed from film in a room with no sunlight, and thus called the “dark room”. Those good old days are over, and Lightroom is now the new digital age dark room.
WORK FLOW COMPARISON
As much as Photoshop and Lightroom are developed by the same company, they work rather differently from each other. This section will walk you through the work flow on why one is an apple, and the other is an orange.
PHOTOSHOP WORK FLOW
As an early adopter of Photoshop, this is an oh-so-familiar app to me. My usual work flow will be something like this:
- I usually shoot in RAW, so the first thing that fires up in Photoshop is Camera Raw.
- Do my primary processing in Camera Raw, which is mostly adjusting the exposure, shadows, highlights and fixing the distortion.
- Photoshop Magic comes next. Which can be anything from removing pieces of rubbish, stacking different photos together, to full image blending.
- The final step involves exporting the file in JPG and PNG formats for use on various social media and photo sharing sites.
When summed up in one simplified diagram, this will be my work process in Photoshop:
A gentle reminder that this is overly simplified, and the “Photoshop Magic” part can be very complex and even take up to days.
LIGHTROOM WORK FLOW
Lightroom on the other hand, works very differently from Photoshop.
- You need to first import your photos into a “catalog”.
- Choose photos from the catalog and edit your photos from there.
- Export the photos.
As you can see, Lightroom is entirely missing out on the “magic” part, and it does not have as much editing capabilities as Photoshop. While Lightroom is not as capable, it is definitely much simpler than Photoshop, and you can apply presets quickly to your photos.
Another huge plus goes to non-destructive editing – Since all the editing is saved into the catalog, your original photos will remain untouched.
Personally, I prefer Photoshop because of the vast array of tools that it has. But that does not mean Lightroom is bad in any case. They both offer some things in common, but also has different sets of tools.
THE TOOLS OF LIGHTROOM
The bulk of Lightroom’s tools are to manage your photos, adjust the exposure, shadows, highlights, and contrast of photos.
You can also easily mass apply presets in Lightroom and batch process your photos fast. That is extremely useful to event photographers and whenever you need to get things done fast. Photoshop does not have the capability to “mass apply presets”, but it does still have “record actions” (macro) to run batch processes.
THE TOOLS OF PHOTOSHOP
While Photoshop does not have a “catalog” to manage your photos, it does have the same set of tools for touching up photos in Camera Raw. So whatever editing you can do in Lightroom, Photoshop can do the same and much more.
Replacing the entire background, adding fire effects, making super heroes and pigs fly. The sky is the limit with Photoshop.
Not to diss Lightroom – While the tools in Lightroom may seem very limited when compared to Photoshop, it is still very capable. Photoshop has a fairy steep learning curve, while Lightroom is easy to figure out.
When it comes to file management, I think Lightroom has the upper hand. It maintains a “catalog” of your photos, and any editing that you do is non-destructive. To less the confusion, all editing in Lightroom is saved to a separate catalog file, and your original photos remain untouched.
So even if you screw up the editing, you can easily revert to your original. On the Photoshop side, editing can be potentially destructive. If you open an original JPG file, do some editing and save over it – it’s permanent.
You will have no means of reverting the changes if you have not made a copy of the JPG file in the first place. That said, I have never encountered any backup issues with Photoshop. I shoot in RAW, and Photoshop will never save over the RAW file; I save all my edits in a separate Photoshop PSD file.
Plus, Photoshop has introduced something called “smart objects”. That is basically an image object that you can “undo all your screw-ups”.
Personally, I shall stick to being an old school Photoshop user, and I am not a huge fan of Lightroom. While some people recommend using the both of them, I just don’t see a point in using Lightroom.
Yes, you can manage your photos with Lightroom, do some simple presets editing, then export to Photoshop for further processing.For me, Lightroom just adds extra steps that don’t add much value to my work flow.
I am not an event photographer, I am not hard pressed to process photos fast, and I definitely don’t spam a ton of photos per shoot. I love to spend time perfecting each photo, and Photoshop offers me much more tools and means to do so.
Nonetheless, Lightroom is still good for those of you who do not need the “advanced editing”. It also offers good photos management, and you can quickly batch process by applying presets.
While Lightroom did not work for me, I cannot tell you which is better. They both have their uses, and you have to decide which is right for you.
IN A NUTSHELL
|For photographers||For photographers, designers and artists|
|Non destructive editing||Potentially destructive editing|
|Capable of retouching photos||Complex editing tools, your creativity is the limit|
|Capable of batch processing||Capable of batching processing, but needs to define actions first|
|Watch a few tutorial videos online and you are good to go||Steep learning curve|
|Can probably find free presets and a few good add-ons online||Been around for a long time. You can find a ton of free brushes, actions, textures and add-ons online.|
WHAT THE CREATIVE CLOUD?
This is one last small section on how Adobe works now – Photoshop and Lightroom are no longer available on “one time payment”, but monthly subscription basis. Some people did not like it, but some others did. Not going to debate that, but I do think the switch in price model actually does more good.
For one, you no longer have to shell out a huge amount of upfront money. It only costs USD 9.90 a month for a legit copy of both Photoshop and Lightroom CC at the time of writing. Plus, you get regular updates for free.
If you are still thinking “one time payment and I can keep it forever” – Think twice. How long before you need to get an updated copy? 2 years? That is USD 237 on the monthly subscription, and I think that is just about the same price if you pay upfront.
Finally, even though it is “creative cloud” now, you do not need to need an Internet connection to use it. You can still use Photoshop and Lightroom when you are offline. So if you have decided that Photoshop and Lightroom is your “thing”, feel free to click on the banner below to get an offer.
Thank you for reading, and hope this guide has been useful to you.